Using a new dataset, we investigate the determinants of violence
against women in Africa. We focus on cultural factors arising from pre-colonial customs and find evidence consistent with two hypotheses. First, ancient socioeconomic conditions determine social norms about gender roles, family structures and intrafamily violence which persist even when the initial conditions change. Norms about marriage patterns, living arrangements and the productive
role of women are associated with contemporary violence. Second, women’s contemporary economic role affects violence in a complex way which is itself related to traditional norms in ancient times and current bargaining power
within the marriage.